Latitude 59°03'50"N Longitude 03°16'13"W

   

ACQUISITION

Lodger facilities for  RN squadrons granted by RAF 13 & 14 groups from May 1940

Airfield transferred to Admiralty control Post War as Station in reserve

OPENED

 

COMMISSIONED

On books of SPARROWHAWK May 1944
As TERN II 15 September 1945
On books of FULMAR by September 1946
 

PAID OFF


 

CLOSED


 

O.I.C.


 

COMMANDING OFFICER

 
   

FUNCTION

1940 -45:
Accommoidation for 1 RN squadron
RN Air Section?

1946:
War Reserve Station in conjunction with R.N.A.S. Twatt.
 

ADDRESS

Royal Air |Forcer Station
Skeabrae,
Orkney
 

LOCALITY

The Airfield lies ¾ mile N. of Loch of Harray and 2 miles from the W. coast. Kirkwall lies 11 miles ESE. and Stromness 6 miles S. R.N.A.S. Twatt is one mile N.

 

LANDMARKS

Brough Head 5 miles NNW. Bay of Skaill and Loch of Harray.

 

ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS

Road on W. boundary to Stromness 7 miles (R)
. Secondary road joins main road to Kirkwall 14½ miles (R). Pier and harbour facilities for small vessels at Stromness and Kirkwall, with steamer communication to Scotland.
B.E.A.C. Air Service Kirkwall to Wick, Inverness and Aberdeen.
   

 

   

CONTROL

Control Building inside the perimeter track opposite the main technical site on the NW of the landing area.

 

ELEVATION

 60' above M.S.L.

 

RUNWAYS

Four, tarmac
02/20 . . Q.D.M. 021°-201° .. 1000 X 25 yds.

07/25 . . Q.D.M. 066°-246° .. 1000 x 25 yds.
11/29 . . Q.D.M. 111°-291° .. 1000 x 25 yds.
15/33 . . Q.D.M. 155°-333° .. 1000 x 25 yds.
 

Extensibility
1800
1600
1600
1300

TRACKS

40' perimeter track.

 

OBSTRUCTIONS

Navigation

Greenay Hill, 450', distant 21 miles NE.

Circuit  

 Approach

None.
     

APPROACH

No special approach recommended.

 

WIND INDICATOR

 
   
   

HOMING - VISUAL

By day:

None.

By night:
 

HOMING--RADIO

D/F:

M/F, H/F and VH/F.

Beacon:  
 

APPROACH - VISUAL

By day:  

None.

By night:
 

APPROACH - RADIO

BABS

 

COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT

 M/F and H/F

? transmitters, ? receivers

VH/F  ? transmitters, ? receivers.
 

GROUND RADAR

None

 

   

ACCOMMODATION

Living quarters in NW. corner of the airfield.

 

Capacity:

Officers:

94

Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings:

1,516

W.R.N.S. Officers:

6

W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings;

168


Note: Accommodation figures are those at time of taking over from R.A.F. and are subject to reduction.
 

ARMOURIES

Not known.

 

COMPASS BASE

Not known.

 

DISPERSAL

One double and two triple fighter pens off  the perimeter track N. of the on the E. of the end of runway '11'. One double fighter pen off the perimeter track between the ends of runways '29' & '25'.

 

HANGARS

Hangars

 

Number /Type

Size

Door Height

Door Width

12 Tee Side
4 groups of 3 outside the perimeter track- 2  NE, 1 SE, & 1 SW .
 
70' X 6o' 20' 60'
1 Callender-Hamilton
Erected in the technical site November 1944
185' x 11O' 25' 100'
       
 

MEDICAL

Not known.

 

METEOROLOGICAL

Not known.

 

FUEL AND OIL

Aviation:

Not known.

M/T:

Not known.

Oil :

Not known.

   

TEST BASE

Not known.

 

TEST BUTT

M.G. test butt and 25 yds. range

 

WORKSHOPS

 

 

EXPLOSIVES

Ammunition store N. of end of runway 33

 

BOMBING AND FIRING RANGES

 

Air to air

 

Air to ground and R. p. Firing

 

Live and practice bombing

 

Practice bombing

 

Assault training

 
   
   

Information taken from B.R. 1807. Dec. 48. Admiralty Handbook of Naval Air Stations Home & Abroad

 

List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

 

801

Fleet Fighter Squadron

Moved from RNAS St. Merryn 08.11.1941.  Moved to RAF Tain 15.02.1942.

Equipped with 12 Sea Hurricanes

 

804

Fleet Fighter Squadron

Disembarked from FURIOUS 10.10.1940.  Moved to RNAS Hatston  19.10.1940, returned 28.10.1940. Moved to RAF Skitten 07.01.1941

Equipped with Sea Gladiator and Martlet fighters

 

841

Torpedo, Bomber, Reconnaissance Squadron

Detachments of 4 aircraft operated from RNAS Hatston:

15-16.10.1944, 21-22.10.1944, 3-4.11.19044 & 7-6.11.1944

Equipped with 12 Barracuda Mk.IIs

 

880

Single seat fighter squadron

Moved here from RNAS Ballyhalbert 06.02.1944.

Embarked in FURIOUS for (14) short periods beginning on 08.02.1944 and ending on 13.09.1944 .

Moved to RNAS Machrihanish 16.09.1944, returned 27.10.1944.

Embarked in IMPLACABLE 08.11.1944, disembarked 29.11.1944.

Moved to RNAS Grimsetter 15.01.1945.

Equipped with 12 Seafire L.III

 

881

Single seat fighter squadron

Detachment (8) disembarked from PURSUER 16-20.06.1944

Moved here from RNAS Grimsetter 18.01.1945.

Embarked PUNCHER 09-14.02.1945.

Embarked PUNCHER 17-25.02.1945.

Moved to RNAS Hatston 02.03.1945.

Equipped with 20 Wildcat VIs

 

882

Fleet fighter squadron

Moved here from RNAS Donibristle 01.10.1942. Embarked VICTORIOUS 06.10.1942.

Equipped with  12 Martlet IVs

 

884

Fleet fighter squadron

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 25.09.1942. Embarked in VICTORIOUS 22010.1942.

Moved here from RNAS Twatt 25.11.1942, Moved to RAF Turnhouse 14.12.1942,l

Equipped with 6 Fulmar Mk.II

 

887

Single seat fighter squadron

Arrived here 06.07.1944 in transit  to join INDEFATIGABLE.

Disembarked from INDEFATIGABLE 24.09.1944.  Moved to RNAS Grimsetter 16.10.1944 in transit to join IMPLACABLE.

Equipped with Seafire F.III

 

894

Single seat fighter squadron

Disembarked from INDEFATIGABLE 24.09.1944.  Moved to RNAS Grimsetter16.10.1944 in transit to join IMPLACABLE.

Equipped with Seafire F.III

 

1841

Single seat fighter squadron

Detachment (4) disembarked from FORMIDABLE 16-18.08.1944

Equipped with Corsair MK.III

 

 

 

 

Originally under construction as a naval air station for the Admiralty, Skeabrae was transferred to the Air Ministry, incomplete, on May 2nd 1940. It was handed over to meet the need for further RAF fighter bases in the Orkneys and the RAF began to arrive on August 15th 1940 to find a station with four runways, and few completed buildings but no water supply, sanitation or electricity. No. 14 Group RAF assumed administrative control of the station on August 30th.

 


RN use of the airfield

The station’s primary task was to providing vital fighter defence for the Royal Navy fleet at Scapa Flow and two RAF fighter squadrons were to occupy the site. However the first operational aircraft to arrive on October 10th were the Sea Gladiators of the Fleet Air Arm‘s 804 Squadron which disembarked from the Fleet Carrier HMS FURIOUS. While at Skeabrae the squadron was to re-equip with 12 of the new American single seat fighter the Martlet (US name Wildcat) On Christmas Day 1940 a pair of Martlets flown by Lt. R. H. P. Carver and Sub-Lt T. R. V. Parke were on patrol over Scapa and intercepted a German raider, a Ju 88; this was the first American built fighter to destroy an enemy aircraft in the Second World War. The squadron moved to RAF Skitten on January 7th 1941.

The first RAF unit to arrive came in January 1941, one Flight of Hawker Hurricanes from No 3 Sqn. In February they were replaced by the Hurricanes of No. 253 Sqn; they stayed until September 1941 and subsequently replaced by No 331 Squadron in the same month. They stayed resident until May 1942.

The next RN squadron did not arrive on the station until the end of 1941, the Sea Hurricanes of 801 Sqn arrived here from RNAS St. Merryn on November 8th. They stayed until February 1942, moving to RAF Tain on the 15th. The next two RN squadrons stayed briefly before joining the Fleet Carrier VICTORIOUS, these were 884 Sqn equipped with 6 Fulmar Mk.IIs arriving from RNAS Lee-on-Solent on September 15th and embarking on October 20th. 882 Sqn moved here from RNAS Donibristle on October 1st equipped with 12 Martlet IVs, they embarked 5 days later on the 6th. The Fulmars of 884 Sqn returned on November 25th relocating from RNAS Twatt, they moved to RAF Turnhouse on December 13th 1942.

The Fleet Air Arm did not return to Skeabrae until February 1944 when the Seafires of 880 moved here from RNAS Ballyhalbert on the 6th. This squadron was to alternate between time afloat in the Fleet Carrier FURIOUS and ashore at Skeabrae. They embarked for the first of 14 short deployments on February 8th; on completion of the last deployment they disembarked on September 9th. The squadron moved to RNAS Machrihanish a week later but returned to Skeabrae on October 27th. On November 8th it embarked in the Fleet Carrier IMPLACABLE for a short deployment, disembarking on the 29th. They moved to RNAS Grimsetter on January 15th 1945.

On June 16th 1944 a detachment of 8 Wildcats from 881 Sqn disembarked from the Escort Carrier PURSUER, they re-embarked on the 20th. No.897 squadron called at Skeabrae on July 6th 1944 in transit to embark in the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE. A detachment of 4 Corsairs of 1841Sqn disembarked from FORMIDABLE on August 16th re-embarking on the 18th. 897 disembarked from INDEFATIGABLE on September 24th; three weeks later they moved to RNAS Grimsetter in transit to join IMPLACABLE on October 16th.

Beginning in mid-October 1944 detachments of 4 Barracudas from 841 Sqn bases at RNAS Hatston 0 began making overnight stays on the station, four in total, the first was on the 15-16th and the last on the 7-8th of November.

The last RN squadron to operate from Skeabrae was 881 Sqn, they relocated from RNAS Grimsetter on January 18th 1945 and operated from here until embarking in the Escort Carrier PUNCHER  on February 9th, disembarking on the 14th, they embarked for a second time on the 17th before returning ion the 25th. The squadron moved to RNAS Hatston 0 on March 3rd 1945.

 


Transferred to Admiralty control as an RN Air Station in War Reserve

The last squadrons allocated to the defence of Scapa Flow at Skeabrae was No. 451 Squadron RAAF which arrived on the station on May 17th 1945. They departed for RAF Lasham, Hampshire on June 12th 1945 to be replaced by the Spitfire Mk.16s of 603 Sqn until the end of July. Skeabrae was now run down to closure, the airfield closed on September 1st 11946 and reduced to Care and Maintenance status. Transferred to the Admiralty on September 15th 1945 as a satellite to RNAS Twatt  but remained in care & maintenance status as TERN II. When the last RN Air Station on Orkney closed the station was reclassified as a Station on War Reserve and it was Bourne on the books of FULMAR, RNAS Lossiemouth.
 

No further use was made of the station and it was returned to agriculture by 1957.

 


 

 

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources:

 

Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 

Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 

 

 

 

 

On Books of 'Sparrowhawk'
 

HMS Tern II

 

On Books of 'Fulmark'
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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